NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Traditions. We all have them, whether they are an annual event or they have been passed down from previous generations.
But for Native American cultures, they are something that is lived by.
There are more than 570 federally recognized tribes in the United States.
While many of them have similar rituals, there are several traditions that are meaningful to individual nations.
Pembina, which Loretta Delong describes as collecting bushes for medicine, is one of those core customs.
“We had little scrapers that we used, and she taught us how to scrape it, and then the bark from these cranberry bushes would then be out there and drying out. And when it was completely dry, it was put into gunny sacks. And they called him a Pedaler, he used to come around and collect them. And it wasn’t until years later actually that I knew this medicine was used in antibiotics,” said Loretta DeLong, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Pembina Band of Chippewa.
She says her mother and grandmothers taught her many things, like the sacredness of her hair.
She said, “You know that through the roots of your hair they can determine DNA and stuff. So, it’s like the things that were being taught, it has a basis someplace. With us, it was our spirit being drawn up into that.”
Delong raised her granddaughter SaNoah, who is now Miss North Dakota USA.
One of the most powerful lessons DeLong was taught was the responsibility of passing on values to the next generation.
“A lot of my core memories have to do with my grandma teaching me how to take care of a fire, is one thing that comes to mind right away. And just kind of what it means to be a woman and the symbolic nature of keeping a fire going and being responsible for that fire going. Much in the same capacity that women are kind of the backbone of our native communities and expected to kind of hold up our values and traditions as native people,” said SaNoah LaRocque, Miss North Dakota USA.
Part of Loretta’s legacy lives through her granddaughter when SaNoah dances the contemporary native Jingle dress dance.
“The story of the jingle dress is that there was a man whose wife was sick, and he had a dream one night of his daughters wearing a dress with these metal cones on it and dancing around her and helping her to heal,” said LaRocque.
LaRocque has been dancing the jingle dress at powwows since she was young and was able to dance in the Harvard Yard when she was studying for her undergraduate degree in Human Evolutionary Biology.
She says the things she’s been taught from her Elders are the things that have made her the woman she is today.
DeLong explains, “I have to make sure that what I’m doing is going to be part of her spirit and part of what she can give to others.”
Both women hope that these traditions can be passed down to many generations after them.
SaNoah LaRocque is the first ever enrolled Native American Miss North Dakota.
She will be representing her culture on the Miss America stage next week.